Manchester United v. PSG Champions League
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This game matches the winner of Group C (Paris Saint Germain) and the runner up of group H (Manchester United). The first leg of this matchup will take place at Old Trafford on February 12th. PSG managed 4 more points in the group stage than their opponents, with United garnering just over half the points on offer.
Manchester United’s form has been a complete about face from their recent form. I, for one, am counting them lucky for making it to this point. Their domestic season had been a disaster up until the new year — when they sacked Mourinho. The turn around has been insane since they had a managerial change to Ole Solskjær Gunnar took over and they’ve been an entirely different side. So much so that they were selected as our first Darkhorse team of 2019.
After a great run of form under Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the Red Devils have risen to 5th in the Premier League. The difference between their play under Mourinho and Solskjær has been black and white. We covered this in our Darkhorse piece, but some of it bears repeating. In home games under Mourinho the team averaged 1.75 goals scored per game and 1.375 against, but under Solskjær they’ve scored 3.5 goals per game and only allowed 1 against.
I think few people would disagree that Manchester United squeaked into the Champions League. They finished only two points above Valencia and had some rather lackluster performances (including a 2-1 loss at Valencia).
PSG really hasn’t provided any shocks this season. They have a star studded cast and have only begun to meet the expectations laid out for them. With Kylian Mbappe, Timothy Weah, Neymar, etc. it’s not a question of if but when they bring home trophies.
Despite having played less games than the rest of the domestic league, they have a huge lead. They’ve managed to give up only 4 points total this season. They have an insane +52 goal differential on 62 goals, good for 3.25 goals scored per game. Across the entire season they are averaging less than 0.5 goals per game conceded. They are a full 13 points clear of the next challenger (even short 2 games).
PSG managed to obtain 11 of the 18 possible points in the group stage. Their one loss in the group stage was to Liverpool, who barely managed to sneak into the round of 16 after tying on goal differential (winning on goals for). In road games, PSG is averaging 2.33 goals scored per game and 1.67 goals allowed per game. It is also worth noting that PSG left 5 of 9 points on the table in away games, possibly indicating a weakness in away games.
What to expect
I expect this game to be a high scoring, free-flowing game. Neither side has been particularly proficient in defense (although the Manchester United defense has been much improved). PSG will want to come out firing and, as I noted, they’ve had a tendency to drop points away from home. They also might be the least excited to see the vast differentiation in their opponents form. That said, this PSG side can definitely get rolling and United still hasn’t shown any defensive prowess.
United haven’t played a Champions League game under Ole Gunnar Solskjær so their statistics are from the Mourinho-era but here’s how some key statistics shake out.
Manchester United (Home): 15 Shots per game, 3.3 Shots per game (On Target)
PSG (Away): 11 Shots per game, 5.7 Shots per game (On Target)
United holds a significant edge in both categories due to the PSG’s dramatic drop off at home in both shots per game (20 at home, 11 away) and shots on target (11 at home, 5.7 away). I do think David de Gea gets tested several times and ultimately concedes. This should be a great game for neutrals with some great attacking names on display and some equally stellar service to those players.
Manchester United 2, Paris Saint Germain 1
Player of the game: David de Gea (5 saves, 1 concession)
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